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Feng Jicai, writer and CPPCC member, is surrounded by reporters as he registers for the annual session March 2, 2015.

The plenary sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), popularly known as the two sessions, kicked off recently. Feng Jicai, a famed author, and a CPPCC member, talked to The Beijing News, and shared his views on cultural issues.


Learning culture is mainly about experiencing culture


1. I know that your proposal this year is about strengthening primary school and middle school students' participation and experience in traditional life and culture. Then in which forms are traditional culture presented?


Feng: Traditional culture is presented in two forms. One is ancient classics, which can be put in textbooks. I remember that when we recited poetry in our childhood, the artistic conception portrayed in the poem was engraved deeply in our minds.


The other is culture in life. For example, during each Spring Festival, we exclaim that the new year atmosphere is disappearing, and young people are detaching from tradition. If we put Qingming Festival, Duanwu Festival into textbooks, then will young people get more interested in the traditional festivals? It is very important to capture their interest first through education.


2. So how does one arouse their interest to get closer to traditional culture?


Feng: Take an example, the Qingming Festival, which is drawing near. If we put it in a textbook, that will include an introduction to the festival's customs, such as tomb sweeping in memory of the deceased. In ancient times, it was also a festival celebrating the early spring, with people taking spring outings, picking willows, flying kites, and swinging. If you explain this to children, they only know it as a concept without any feeling and experiencing. But if you take children outdoors to experience these things, they will learn to cherish nature and life.


Don't expect the public to love poetry after watching a few TV shows


3. The cultural TV shows such as Chinese Poetry Conference and Readers are getting popular these days, have you ever watched the shows?


Feng: That's good. While it is only a beginning and an attempt, it can spark people's interests in ancient Chinese poetry on a certain level. Don't expect too much from just a few TV shows. Culture influences people mainly through influencing their souls and temperaments, and not just by making a few TV shows to catch the public's eye.


4. What is the authentic influence of culture?


Feng: As an NPC member, I proposed before that China should set up a Cultural Heritage Day. I know this from France, and each year on this day, all the museums in France are free, and all schools and communities encourage people to get close to cultural heritage.


I even participated in a poetry reading event in a community in Austria. I was exhibiting my paintings at a house in the suburbs where my Chinese friend was reading poetry, and then local residents also came to read their poetry or perform a folk song, all spontaneously. If people have such cultural self-consciousness, the whole nation's culture and civilization can be activated.


5. It sounds beautiful. When can we have such cultural self-consciousness?


Feng: This will be a long process. We can't forget Chinese culture's roots, but we can absorb the essence of foreign culture. The artistic cultivation of a person needs a slow process which can't be accomplished with quick action.


6. Will the popular cultural TV shows help?


Feng: It won't work for all. I know almost all the poetry in the show, so it works a little on me. Some people have little interest in poetry, and the shows won't work on him, either. It's easy to only concentrate on popular things now. However, art and culture have abundant connotations.


7. How should we foster the public's cultural self-consciousness?


Feng: I think that to develop traditional culture, one not only needs the opening of national museums, but also needs more opening of private museums. Foundations and people from all walks of life should develop the culture together, to make people have more immaterial pursuits, instead of focusing only on making more money.


Culture is fundamentally people-oriented and exists to enrich people's inner mind. People should learn art, and learn to experience life in a beautiful way. Some people have said this is too luxurious. I replied that if we never bring luxury in enjoying the beauty of our culture, then we are being too materialistic.


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